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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

5 Types of Autumn Squash

My newly acquired squash collection ;)
It's the end of October already!  Halloween is this weekend.  Winter squash and pumpkins are fresh, plentiful, inexpensive and perhaps even on sale this time of year.  I ran across one such sale at a local farm stand around the corner from my home (the corner of Brighton Rd. and Chilson in Brighton, MI if anyone lives near me and is interested.) Of course I had to stock up!

Winter squash are extremely useful for cooking. Most smooth fleshed winter squash (like those listed below) can be used interchangeably in baking, chili recipes, soup recipes or others. While their flesh does vary slightly in flavor, all tend to be sweet and have the same basic flavor profile.  You can find many recipes for squash by doing a simple Google search, visiting any of the cooking sites listed to the right of this post, or by viewing 2 of my posts listed here:

Recipe for Squash Puree, Squash Scones & Squash Butter
Recipe for Roasted & Mashed Squash and Squash Soup

Did you know?
You can roast, salt and eat the seeds of all winter squash. Once roasted, the seeds store for at least 6 months in an air tight container at room temperature.  Visit the Betty Crocker Website to learn how.

You can also save squash seed for planting next year.  Simply dig them out from the center of the squash, spread them flat onto a paper towel an allow them to dry for 3-4 days. When the seeds are dry, store them in an envelope in a cool, dry place.  Don't forget to label them so that you know what kind of squash they are! 

Squash leaves are also edible.  Simply strip the leaves off of the thick part of the ribs and stem, then add them to soup, or steam them. These last about 1 week fresh in the refrigerator. 

Happy Halloween!
I thought that I might share my top 5 favorite farm stand winter squash finds with you along with a bit of information on each type of squash.  Here they are:


Everyone is familiar with this bright orange autumn squash. Although there are many varieties, the two you generally see are either those used to make jack-o-lanterns or the smaller pie pumpkins.  Pie pumpkins have thick, sweet flesh and are commonly used for baking, especially for making pumpkin pie.  The jack-o-lanterns are not as good for eating but have thick skin and hold up well to carving.  Pie pumpkins store well for about 3 months in a cool, dry place.

My dog, Snickers, likes to use the sniff test to inspect for squash quality.

These squash are small (for a squash), green, and shaped like a giant acorn.  They have smooth, sweet, nutty flesh.  They are often used for stuffing and baking.   This squash stores well for about 3 months in a dry cool place.


This squash is elongated and tan or yellowish in color.  The flesh is orange, very sweet, and contains less fiber than a pumpkin.   This squash can be stored in a cool dry place for at least 5-6 months fairly easily and gets sweeter the longer it is stored.   This is my favorite squash for making squash butter.  I find it both sweeter and richer than pumpkin butter.


This squash is about the size of a pie pumpkin, but is green and color with silver lines through it.  Its flesh is orange, sweet and nutty.  It contains less fiber than a pumpkin. This squash can store for about 4 months in a cool dry place.

HOW TO GROW SQUASH -  the basics:

Each of these grow in about the same conditions. Plant in full sun and rich soil. If your soil is poor, add compost and/or organic fertilizer.  For more on how to improve soil, please see: My Garden Soil Articles.  Plant the seeds 1-2 inches deep after the average temperature is around 70F (21C) for several days.  (That would be late May to early June here in zone 5b - but watch the weather report, this is Michigan after all! The weather can change when you blink!)

 If you have a short growing season (Zone 3 or 4), you can start squash indoors, but this is not ideal. Squash do not like to be transplanted, so it is better to start them in the ground.  To ensure that this will work, either use seed from squash that grow well in your local area and/or when you purchase seed, read the seed packet to see how many days there are until the squash matures. Choose a length of maturity that is somewhat shorter than the length of time between when the average spring temperature reaches 70F (21C) and first frost date in your area.  Here in Zone 5b, that means that you should select seed that mature around 100 days (give or take) .  Seed should be simple because most squash mature between 85 and 125 days.

Compost fall leaves, squash shells & scraps to enrich your soil!
Squash vines can grow up to 30 feet in length. So be sure to leave plenty of space between the plants (at least 10 feet!).  Spacing is also important to maintain good airflow between the plants so that the leaves do not become infected with downy or powdery mildew. Consider planting in a field, in a bed along the South side of an out building or in another location where you don't mind having a low sprawling vine.  If your area is prone to flooding, make a mound about 1 foot high, and 1-2 feet wide, in which to plant the squash and/or plant in a raised bed.  If your area is dry and drains well, you do not need to do this.

One classic way to plant squash is beneath corn stalks and along side beans. It is one of the "3 sisters": corn, beans and squash.  All 3 plants enjoy rich soil and full sun.  Beans help to produce nitrogen for the corn and squash. The squash acts as a ground cover around the corn to prevent weed growth.  The corn acts as a pole for the beans to grow on. Please consider growing these 3 together.

Water the squash in the morning so that the leaves have time to dry off during the day.  This also helps to prevent downy and powdery mildew infection.  For more information on potential squash pests and what to do about this, please visit:

Harvest the squash when the fruit is large, bright in color, of good weight and when the vine starts to die away slightly.  The shell should also be hard and not easily dented with your finger.  When you cut it open, the flesh should be brightly colored.

I hope to be volunteering at the Brighton Victory Garden again this summer.  If you are willing to donate 20 hours of time to the project, and speak to Kay (the coordinator) about this in advance, she will often agree to give you a row to plant for yourself.  I plan on doing this next summer.  In my row I will be planting the squash seed that I save from the squash discussed in this article.  I am also going to try planting watermelon for the first time. Having a row in the sunny Victory Garden field will be essential to growing these plants.  My yard is both too small and too shady to grow very many of these large, sprawling plants. So, I will grow smaller vegetables in my yard (tomatoes, peppers, greens etc.) and will grow the larger ones (corn, beans, squash, melon) at the Brighton Victory Garden.  I plan to share part of my harvest with Gleaners Food Bank in keeping with the Victory Garden's mission.   Keep reading next spring and summer to see how this goes!  I will be posting about it.

For More Information / Works Cited:

A great website with a list of nearly every type of squash: "All About Pumpkins"

You can buy seed here or just read the growing instructions.  They also have a chart about squash storage and other great growing tips: "Johnny's Selected Seeds" 

"I love the smell of fresh pumpkin in the morning.  It smells like... autumn!"

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